Actress Nafessa Williams Had To Learn The Power Of Pressing Pause To Win At Life
In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, their life, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.
The only Black female superheroes that I can name off of the top of my head are my mother and "Thunder" from CW's Black Lightning. If you're not familiar with Black Lightning, I don't know what you are doing with your free time because it is one of the single best shows I've started watching. Nafessa Williams, alongside Cress Williams and China Anne McClain, effortlessly portrays a 21st century Black woman as she ebbs and flows through relationships, mental health and family drama - all while being a superhuman. Adding to that, she has broken ground playing the first African-American lesbian superhero on television. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Nafessa.
The 30-year-old actress has starred in the recent Deon Taylor feature Black & Blue alongside Naomie Harris, Frank Grillo and Tyrese Gibson for Screen Gems, had a season-long arc on the CBS series Code Black, and recurred on the hit Showtime series Twin Peaks.
For this installment of "Finding Balance", xoNecole had the chance to discuss with actress Nafessa Williams about meditation, traveling with her friends, and exercising as part of her daily lifestyle.
At what point in your life did you understand the importance of pressing pause and finding balance in both your personal and professional life?
I remember it was right before I booked Black Lightning, I was auditioning every day, sometimes two to three times a day and I was drained mentally and physically. I was all about my work and busy trying to make it. I wasn't really enjoying life though, and I hadn't gone on a trip in about seven years, didn't have a self-care regimen, and was all work. A friend of mine advised me to press the pause button and live a little so I could give over to my craft and, more importantly, so I wouldn't drive myself crazy. So, it was at that moment I started to live more and take care of myself.
"I remember it was right before I booked Black Lightning, I was auditioning every day, sometimes two to three times a day and I was drained mentally and physically. I was all about my work and busy trying to make it. I wasn't really enjoying life though, and I hadn't gone on a trip in about seven years, didn't have a self-care regimen, and was all work. A friend of mine advised me to press the pause button and live a little so I could give over to my craft and, more importantly, so I wouldn't drive myself crazy."
Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images
What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of.
A typical day in my life consists of prayer, meditation, [and a] morning workout. If I'm filming, I head to set; if not, I'm knocking out a to-do list. My favorite things to eat for breakfast are Beyond sausage and avocado toast, oatmeal and fruit, but if I'm pressed for time I'll have a banana and a green juice. I typically meditate for about 20 minutes everyday. I love the guided meditations with Deepak Chopra and Oprah on the Chopra Center Meditation website.
How do you wind down at night?
I love to wind down at night with a shower, candles, and some relaxing music. My favorites to listen to are Lauryn Hill, Sade, Jill Scott, and H.E.R.. I lowkey go to bed watching Martin every night as if I don't already know every episode word for word.
When you have a busy week, what’s the most hectic part of it?
A busy week for me is when I'm filming every day that week. It's kinda tough being on set all day and night and needing to run errands because by the time I'm off work everything is closed; that can be hectic for me. But, I try to organize my weekend to handle the things I couldn't during the week. Oh, and trying to maintain my workouts when I'm filming can be tough when I have early call times.
Do you practice any types of self-care? What does that look like for you?
Yes, mediation, workouts and therapy are a part of my self-care routine. I also treat myself to massages pretty often and quality time with myself.
"Mediation, workouts and therapy are a part of my self-care routine. I also treat myself to massages pretty often and quality time with myself."
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?
I would tell women, "You are what matters the most and if you aren't balanced, happy, centered, you can't give your best self to anything or anyone else." Self-love and our happiness should be at the top of the list. Make self-care a priority!
How do you find balance with:
I talk to my close friends just about every day. When I'm filming the show, I don't really get to kick it until the weekends though. I love to travel with my friends. I'm a true Sagittarius who loves adventure. My favorite [memory] with my friends is my 30th bday trip to the Bahamas with seven of my girlfriends. We partied, jumped off boats, swam in a cage and watched sharks being fed. Literally my most memorable trip so far.
Work has been the priority for me over the last six years, but I am learning to find the balance when it comes to dating. I do want to have a family soon, so I'm starting to mentally prepare myself for the sacrifices that I'll need to make.
Exercising is a part of my lifestyle. I try to workout at least five days a week. The workout schedule varies depending on my shooting schedule. So I work out with my trainer Justin Shaw who created a dope 15-minute ab workout. It's intense as hell but knowing it's only 15 minutes is the incentive. I also switch it up and do some of my workouts on my own which typically last for about an hour. I like to do full body workouts. Legs, arms, back and abs.
"Exercising is a part of my lifestyle. I try to workout at least five days a week."
What about health? Do you cook or find yourself eating out?
I've been a pescatarian for the last eight years and it works for me. I've actually been in the kitchen lately, trying new recipes, cooking for my friends, enjoying my own food at home. Every now and then, I order out but not as much as I used to.
Do you ever detox?
I've detoxed before but it's not something that I do regularly. I've done a juice cleansing detox where I juiced for a couple of days. I loved the idea of the cleanse but I lost weight which is why I don't do it often. I love my weight and at the moment I'm just interested in toning.
When you are going through a bout of uncertainty, or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?
My spirituality is very important to me. Prayer and meditation help me get through moments of uncertainty. Journaling helps as well.
"My spirituality is very important to me. Prayer and meditation help me get through moments of uncertainty."
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Girlboss Rally NYC 2018
What do you do when you have a creative block on a project or feel like you have to clear your head before going into character?
When I feel blocked creatively or need to clear my head, I do a couple breathing exercises or go on a run. This tends to help me get centered.
Honestly, what does success and happiness mean to you?
Being aware of and walking in your purpose is what I call success. I've learned tangible things don't equate to success, the intangible is what I'm after. For me, happiness and success is being fulfilled Spiritually, Physically, Psychologically and Mentally. Everything else will fall in alignment. I'll be honest, having financial stability is nice but by no means does it mean you are successful.
For more of Nafessa, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image via Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
What would you do if you just got laid off from your corporate job and you had a serendipitous encounter with someone who gave you the opportunity of a lifetime? Tamara Taylor was faced with that decision in 2013 after she was let go from her sales profit and operations coach job in the restaurant industry and met a then-up-and-coming stylist, Law Roach, on a flight to L.A. She and Roach struck up a conversation, and he shared how he was looking for someone to run his business and was impressed by her skills. While she took his business card, she was unsure if it would lead to anything. But, boy, was she wrong. Two weeks later, after packing up her home to move back to her hometown of Chicago, she called Roach; he asked if they could meet the following day, and the rest is herstory.
Taylor founded Mastermind MGMT, an agency that represents some of Hollywood’s best “image architects” like Roach, Kellon Deryck, and Kollin Carter, who are responsible for creating unforgettable style and beauty moments for celebrities like Zendaya, Megan Thee Stallion, Taraji P. Henson, and more. Taylor and her company possess an array of functions, but her biggest role is to be her client’s advocate. We hear endless stories about how creatives aren’t paid or underpaid in the entertainment industry, but Taylor ensures that her clients get their piece of the pie. The entrepreneur opened up about her company and her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, in an exclusive interview with xoNecole.
“I always say that I'm an artist advocate first, deal closer second. So my primary focus is to just make sure that the artist is getting everything that they deserve, whether it's compensation or, you know, certain accommodations, but just making sure that they have everything that they need to be able to show up and provide the best service that they're hired for,” she explained.
“So you know, in the beginning, it was hard because I didn't have any experience, and the artists who I was working with at the time–we were learning together, meaning neither of us had assisted anyone. We didn't have mentors in our specific fields. So every deal was like a new learning experience for us from the styling side and also from the business side, and so it took, you know, doing some research, using some very creative tactics, to find out information in the industry and just starting to request accommodations that I knew other artists were granted, who maybe didn't look like my artists.”
Photo courtesy of Tamara Taylor
Ten years later, there’s still not many people who are doing what Taylor is doing. However, things have gotten easier thanks to the research and connections she made in the beginning. During Mastermind MGMT’s ten-year anniversary celebration, she announced her non-profit, Mastermind Matters, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that focuses on helping young entrepreneurs through a 12-week program. The program is divided into “two routes.” The first route is for aspiring creative artists who want to start a business from their talent and all the things they need to learn about business, such as taxes, life insurance, etc. The second route is for practicing creative artists who are already in the industry but need resources such as how to plan for retirement or how to sustain themselves if they can’t work for a short amount of time, i.e., the pandemic.
“I just feel that I'm able to have a business and be successful because of their art as well. And so there are things that I know, I tried to teach it to them but understanding that I can only do so much because I'm not a subject matter expert in those fields,” she said. “So I at least want to be able to provide the resources, and then if they make their grown decision not to do it, then that's on them. But you know, I could be guilt-free and taking advantage of the resources that I'm also providing to them.”
Taylor continues to be an innovator in her industry by always pushing the boundaries of creativity and thinking one step ahead of everyone else. The Chicago-bred businesswoman is moving into the tech space thanks to a new invention created with her clients in mind, and she is looking forward to bigger collaborations in the future. Follow Mastermind MGMT on Instagram @mastermind_mgmt for more information.
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Feature image courtesy of Tamara Taylor